Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Martin's thrift store in Hudson closing 21 years of service

Every now and then, especially after a heavy rain, homeless men and women make their way into the 1,600-square-foot store in the Hudson Square shopping center. They know somebody will give them dry clothes and even let them change in the restroom.

The generosity comes without strings. And while most visitors are grateful, some ignore the sign on one wall: Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Sandra Mooney, a retired business executive who manages the St. Martin's Episcopal Church thrift shop, just sighs.

"This isn't treasure,'' she says. "Bless them and send them on their way.''

Mooney's fellow volunteers often accept less than the asking price for clothing or appliances or hundreds of other donated items because what's really important here is helping the poor — or as longtime volunteer Barbara Cyr says, "serving God.''

Mooney, 70, muses that such benevolence might have contributed to her unpleasant duty of closing the store after 21 years. Of course she knows better. Proceeds have dwindled much like the number of families in the congregation that meets further north up U.S. 19. Most of the volunteers are in their 80s and 90s, including some with severe dementia who still show up to sort hangers or use a magnifying glass to put price tags on items. Sometimes that means extra work for others, but the thrift shop is sort of a last refuge of familiarity for these longtime volunteers.

"And I would never even consider taking this away from them,'' Mooney says.

The thrift shop has helped the church support 24 charities in Pasco County and send clothing to destitute people in places like Haiti and Honduras. It collected truckloads of clothing for Hurricane Katrina victims. Every week, the church delivers a 32-gallon bag of clothes for poor kids at Hudson Elementary School.

But last August, the new priest at St. Martin's leaned on Mooney to direct a project everyone knew had to come sooner or later. The Rev. Walcott Hunter, like so many pastors challenged by a shrinking, aging congregation, looked at the numbers generated at the store. In many months, every dime went to the $2,700 rent and associated bills.

Meanwhile, no less than seven other thrift stores opened within a 10-mile area. The Rev. Hunter asked Mooney to take a mission: close the Hudson Square store and build a viable alternative.

She was a logical choice except for one thing: She didn't want to do it. In 15 years as a member of the congregation, she had hesitated to get too involved because she and husband Jack always planned trips around the country to visit family.

They had met more than 20 years ago when Sandra, a headhunter for a software company in Silicon Valley, recruited him for an engineering job. Later they realized they shared a love for sailing, got married and made plans to sail around the world. They left the San Francisco bay area in 1993 and gradually made their way to Central America and eventually to Fort Lauderdale where Sandra had a sister. In the next year, they searched for a permanent home and wound up in Hudson. After seven years aboard a 32-foot Challenger sailboat named Utopia, they now had a house but still took cruises to the Bahamas and elsewhere.

When home, they enjoyed the spirit they found at St. Martin's. "People cared for each other there,'' Mooney said. "This service to others attitude was inspiring.''

Running the thrift shop came with an immediate, unexpected challenge. The woman who had handled all the volunteer scheduling, the most difficult of all the jobs, died. Mooney had to assume the role. She also learned quickly that just because she had run businesses, this would be totally different.

"When I was in the workforce, I set the rules,'' she said. "Here it's whatever these 85-year-old people want to do because they're going to do it anyway. But they all come here for one reason: They want to help people. It has been such a humbling experience for me to be with them.''

Some of them feel melancholy about closing the store, but Mooney is excited about what's next. The store will stay open Monday through Saturday until the lease runs out May 9. After that, the church will raise money for charities by hosting what Mooney calls "family festivals.'' They will be scheduled for the second Thursday-Friday-Saturday block of each month, with the first set for June 7. Mooney envisions a fresh produce market, yard sale, music and special treats for children.

For 21 years, people have donated items for St. Martin's, dropping them off at the store or calling for pickup. Starting April 19, the repository will be the church from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mooney wants to start early to get people used to the change.

Meanwhile, most everything at the store is half-price.

"It's a true going out of business sale,'' she says, standing in an attractive shirt she bought off the rack for $2.

"I never knew about thrift shops until I started here,'' she says. "I was a Nordstrom girl.''

>>if you go

Church thrift store

The St. Martin's Thrift Shoppe is in the Hudson Square shopping center at U.S. 19 and Hudson Avenue. For information, call (727) 862-9275. The website for St. Martin's Episcopal Church is stmartinshudsonfl.org.

St. Martin's thrift store in Hudson closing 21 years of service 03/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 8:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears

    World

    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'

    War

    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]